After nine years as principal of , Patricia Hager will be leaving her position at the end of June.
Hager said she is leaving Whitney because she will be taking over as assistant superintendent of human resources for the La Canada Unified School District on July 1.
Her departure will follow yet another hugely successful year for the school, which earned another California Distinguished School award. On April 25, the school also began construction on a $4.6 million project to build a 26,000 square foot multimedia training center on the campus. The new facility will include an auditorium along with classrooms and labs for students interested in animation, journalism and computer science.
The multimedia center project, which is being funded by 350 donations from alumni, the community and a $750,000 contribution from former , is slated for completion in February 2012.
Hager reaffirmed Whitney’s status as a top college-preparatory school yet she said during her tenure she redefined the school's priorities, changing Whitney’s focus from boasting about having many of its students moving on to Ivy League schools to comprehensively looking for colleges that suit each individual student's interests.
“We redefined ourselves as a school that looks for the 'best match' college for our students, not about bragging rights or perfect SAT scores,” she said.
Unlike many other schools, Hager said that Whitney’s approach goes beyond researching requirements for each college. Instead it begins in 8th grade, when staff and faculty members give students projects and activities to find out their interests and qualifications. This approach extends all the way to each pupil's senior year, when staff and the student have a sense of who they are and what they want to get out of college and life in general.
In addition to engaging with students, many of the school’s staff, including Hager, visit the colleges their students are interested in —whether it’s 20 miles away or 2,000 miles away. This helps ensure that these schools actually have programs that meet their students' goals.
“The result is kids [from Whitney] are happier, they’re not changing colleges and losing time,” she said. “Parents are more comfortable where they belong and it’s the right thing to do.”
Hager also noted that Whitney vastly expanded the amount of scholarship money offered to its seniors from $150,000 in 2002 to $8.3 million in 2010. She touted aggressive research from students and staff on the various awards as the reason for the 54-fold increase in scholarship money. Her goal for the upcoming graduating class is $8.6 million.
Superintendent Gary Smuts praised Whitney’s leadership under Hager for making it a consistently top-rated school, touting that Whitney is the “best of the best.”
“When you’re the top school in California year after year after year, it’s not just the students, the parents or the leadership, it’s everyone that’s involved,” he said. “[Hager] has support from the community and a wonderful staff.”
He cited Hager’s initiative to find the “best match” college for its students as one of many of the school’s unique strengths.
“That’s the kind of precision and fine tuning that only superior schools [like Whitney] do to make that work for their students,” he said.
Smuts said the District has yet to find or decide on Hager’s replacement and will discuss many options with the ABC School Board.